Vegetation monitoring, and related activities like assessment and inventory, are a cornerstone of natural resource adaptive management. However, many people either do not implement monitoring, conduct very basic or uninformative data collection, or do not use the monitoring data they collect. While there are many potential reasons for this, one significant factor is a lack of understanding of how to select appropriate indicators and methods to build and implement a monitoring program. The Vegetation Measurement and Monitoring course was designed to give an overview of vegetation measurement techniques for grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, and forests. Students will gain a solid understanding of how to evaluate and monitor vegetation attributes relative to wildlife habitat, livestock forage, fire fuel characteristics, watershed function, and many other wildland values.

After completing the course learning modules, students will be able to:

  • Design appropriate sampling protocols to meet monitoring objectives in various types of vegetation.
  • Measure vegetation cover, density, frequency, biomass, structure, and species composition and diversity on rangelands.
  • Estimate utilization of herbage.
  • Explain advantages and disadvantages of different sampling and measurement methods for all plant attributes.
  • Create monitoring programs that incorporate photographic methods
  • Use standard approaches to land classification and evaluation to interpret results in the context of resource management decisions.
  • Be able to identify and interpret rangeland health indicators
  • Clearly communicate results and their implications in an accepted standard written format.

This course content is used for the University of Idaho’s Principles of Vegetation Measurement and Assessment (REM 410) and New Mexico State University Vegetation Measurements (RGSC 452) classes. Recommended preparation for this course includes familiarity with basic statistics (such as would be covered in an introduction statistics course) and understanding of how to use computer spreadsheets such as Excel.

This course is provided by the Range Science Education Council, and was made possible through a USDA NIFA Higher Education Challenge Grant entitled “Repositioning Rangeland Education for a Changing World.” (Award # 2010-38411-21370).